King’s Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital Foundation Trust has been placed into special measures following a Care Quality Commission inspection.
The trust was inspected between April and June and inspectors found there had been a “deterioration in service” since the last inspection in 2015.
A number of concerns and areas for improvement were highlighted and the trust has been rated as “inadequate overall” in a report published yesterday.
As a result, regulatory body NHS Improvement has placed the trust in special measures “to rapidly improve patient services”.
Urgent and emergency care, medical care and maternity have been rated as inadequate overall, and surgery, which was previously rated as good is now rated as requires improvement.
The trust is rated as inadequate for whether its services are safe and well-led, requires improvement for whether its services are effective and responsive but is rated good for caring.
This is the second time in five years the hospital has been placed in special measures.
In 2013, following a critical CQC inspection, the hospital was ordered to improve in nine separate areas, including storage of medicines and respecting patient privacy, dignity and independence. Two years later, strong leadership and committed staff were cited as reasons why the hospital was recommended to come out of special measures.
Following this year’s inspection, CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, professor Ted Baker, said: “Our concerns in relation to the maternity service were such that we raised these with the executive directors while on site, issued a warning notice to the trust, identifying areas where it must improve and placed conditions on the trust’s registration.”
There was praise for outstanding practice in the multi-disciplinary rapid assessment scheme which worked in the emergency department to help patients who didn’t need to be admitted to hospital, or swift discharge for patients who were able to be allowed home.
“We know the trust initiated an immediate action improvement plan for maternity services and we will return to check on improvements in the service,” said Prof Baker.
Kathy McLean, executive medical director and chief operating officer at NHS Improvement, said patient safety was its top priority.
“We will be undertaking intensive work with the trust as part of the programme to ensure that services improve, including maternity and urgent care.
“In addition, we will be providing support to ensure improvements to the way in which the trust is run.”
Jon Green, the hospital trust’s chief executive, said: “Reading the report leaves me saddened. We fully accept all the CQC have said and I would like to apologise to those patients who we have let down and to our dedicated staff who work so hard under sometimes extreme pressures. I am determined to ensure this organisation improves and meets their expectations.
“We have already started to address the issues highlighted in the report and have comprehensive plans in place to ensure we turn this situation around. Our vision is to deliver high quality, patient-centred, integrated care and we continue to work towards this.
“The leadership of the QEH are committed to this organisation and evidence shows the longer leaders are in place, the more that stability helps drive up standards.
“We are strengthening the trust’s leadership and are working with our system partners to make the necessary improvements to our services and the hospital estate.”
Mr Green added: “When we welcome the CQC back into our organisation next year I feel confident we will be able to demonstrate significant improvements to them, many of which are already underway.
“I know from the letters and compliments I receive the importance of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to the community it serves.
“We and our dedicated staff are working hard to meet our patients’ expectations.
“We are listening to them and the wider community.
“Patients should feel confident about being cared for at the QEH.”
At a press conference yesterday, Mr Green said there was a determination to turn the hospital around but admitted it was a “journey” which would continue beyond re-inspection next year.
A raft of improvements are already underway to quickly improve the trust’s levels of care and service and Mr Green said some of these would not be immediately obvious to patients.
Speaking about morale of the around 700 staff following the report, Mr Green said there was “disappointment to see this rating”.
“This is their local hospital as well as where they work,” he added.
He said staff understood how much the QEH was a part of the community and he got a real sense of a determination from them to see things turn around.
QEH medical director Nick Lyons said some staff had not read all of the report but they were upset.
He also echoed there was an overwhelming effort to work together to show “we do care and will provide the very best in quality of care we can”.
Darren Barber, chairman of the joint staff consultative committee (staff side) said in a statement: “This report makes sad reading for everyone at QEH, especially the staff and our patients.
“Things have gone wrong and they must be put right as quickly as possible.
“We have a long track record of working with and supporting the management of this hospital.
“They continue to have our support and we will continue to work with them in the coming weeks and months.”
North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham, said: “This really is a retrograde step and one that is especially disheartening given all the hard work that has gone into the hospital since it came out of the last special measures programme in 2015.
“I do not believe now is the time for a change in senior management, as this is the first time in a long time that we have had a permanent senior management team and I have every confidence they will be successful in turning the hospital around.
“Furthermore, I have no doubt that the majority of staff at the QEH are highly-professional, highly-dedicated, highly-compassionate and they will make the recovery plan work.”
Sir Henry added: “Indeed, many of my constituents who have contacted me have done so to highlight the truly excellent care they have received while staying at the QEH.
“Time and again constituents tell me that they leave the QEH having had a really positive experience, and this is, of course, in part due to the professionalism, kindness and compassion shown by the staff they have dealt with.
“Although some people might say all the CQC does is go around looking for negative points in a hospital.
“Nevertheless, they are there to provide protection to my constituents and the wider public. This is why we cannot ignore this report and I will be looking to have an early meeting with the chairman Edward Libby (hospital trust) and chief executive Jon Green to discuss their recovery plan.
“It is vital the lessons flagged up in the report are dealt with as soon as possible and acted on.”
Sir Henry said he would also be calling for a meeting with the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk) and the Health Minister Stephen Barclay (North East Cambridgeshire MP).
Mr Green said yesterday he looked forward to working with Sir Henry and other area MPs.
South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss said the findings were “extremely disappointing” and she would be seeking “swift action from the hospital leadership team” to address the concerns raised. “The hospital is a key service in West Norfolk and I know staff work extremely hard to support patients,” she said.